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Review: CadSoft EAGLE PCB Layout Software

If you are new to PCB design or you are an old fogey stuck in a time warp with DOS and Protel Autotrax or Easytrax, now is your chance. Now you can get CadSoft EAGLE which works under the Windows, Linux or Mac operating systems. You can even get a limited version (EAGLE Light) which is available for non-profit use at no charge. You can then give DOS the flick.

By Nicholas Vinen

If you are a rank beginner but reasonably familiar with Windows (or Linux or Mac) software which makes extensive use of the graphical interface, then CadSoft EAGLE is reasonably easy to learn. And if you are a long-time fan of Easytrax or Autotrax, you will find much that is similar in Eagle, with drop-down menus, component libraries, schematic editor and so on.

Some of the contributed projects published in SILICON CHIP have been designed with Eagle, especially using the free version which can cope with a maximum PCB size of 100 x 80mm. If you want more CAD power, upgrades are reasonably priced and within the hobbyist’s reach.

But EAGLE is also a serious design package which can be used on a commercial scale. It can accommodate multiple large, complex boards with many surface-mount and through-hole parts, based on circuits spread over many sheets.

How To Obtain CadSoft Eagle

CadSoft EAGLE is available from Element14 (au.element14.com) or from the CadSoft website (www.cadsoftusa.com). There are four versions with some options:

(1) EAGLE light: one schematic and up to two layers per board; maximum dimensions 100 x 80mm. Free for non-profit use or evaluation purposes. Or $54.45 with fax and telephone support.

(2) EAGLE Hobbyist: 99 schematics and up to six layers per board; maximum dimensions 160 x 100mm. For non-commercial use only. US$125.

(3) EAGLE Standard: 99 schematics and up to six layers per board; maximum dimensions 160 x 100mm. Price varies by number of users and options. $553.34 for one user with schematic and PCB layout, $830.00 with auto-router.

(4) EAGLE Professional: 999 schematics and up to 16 layers per board; maximum dimensions 1.6 x 1.6m. Price varies by number of users and options. $1106.67 for one user with schematic and PCB layout, $1660.00 with auto-router.

Discounts are available for educational users. Note: prices do not include GST.

Features

EAGLE’s primary parts are the schematic (circuit) editor, PCB layout editor, component library edit­or, autorouter and CAM (computer aided manufacturing) facility. It also has a “script” feature which adds a number of very useful options, such as making mass changes to boards and schematics.

The first step in any PCB design is to draw the circuit and you do that using the schematic editor (see Fig.1). The main controls are arranged in a toolbar down the left side of the screen, although you can move it about if you wish.

The toolbar includes buttons to add a component, move it, rotate it, duplicate it, delete it, change its name (designator) and value, swap sub-components (eg, op amp sections) and pins, route nets and so on. There are 36 standard tools.

There is also a “command line” at the top of the window where commands can be typed. This gives you access to more advanced options (eg, rotating components by angles smaller than 90°). But all the most common commands are available via the toolbar, menus or keyboard shortcuts (which can easily be customised).

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